To hugs and a roaring bipartisan standing ovation, House Republican whip Steve Scalise returned to work on Thursday, more than three months after a baseball practice shooting left him fighting for his life.
“You have no idea how great this feels to be back here at work in the people’s House,” the 51-year old Louisianan said to a chamber packed with lawmakers, including senators who welcomed him back.
Scalise posted a photo of his return on Twitter.
I’m back. pic.twitter.com/vuqYQorM6U
Scalise hobbled into the chamber on crutches, smiling broadly and blowing kisses in his first public appearance since the June 14 shooting. In an extraordinary gesture, Speaker Paul Ryan, presided and ordered members to sit in their chairs to listen to Scalise’s remarks.
“Our prayers have been answered,” Ryan said.
The moment marked a departure from the bitter divisions that have dominated Congress this year between two parties locked in combat over U.S. President Donald Trump and the Republican agenda.
Scalise thanked the two wounded Capitol Hill police officers who returned fire and helped kill the shooter, James Hodgkinson of Belleville, Ill. One of them, David Bailey, was in the chamber Thursday.
“David, you are my hero,” Scalise said.
Scalise’s emotional speech, interrupted by frequent applause, thanked his family and referred to innate optimism he partly attributed to being from Louisiana, referring to the attitude of “joie de vivre” (joy of life) in a state with a heavy French influence.
“When I come back into this chamber today, just seeing the faces of all of you, it just means more than you can imagine,” Scalise said.
The politician and four others were injured when a gunman opened fire on a Republican baseball practice in nearby Alexandria, Va. U.S. Capitol Police and other officers returned fire and killed the gunman. The rifle-wielding attacker had nursed grievances against Trump and the Republican Party.
Scalise was struck in the hip, and the bullet damaged blood vessels, bones and internal organs